Published Somedays

Mass (Ride) Confusion...

(updated: Apr 9, 2008)

"First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they fight you. Then you win."
- Gandhi

Lately I've been thinking, what do these group rides accomplish, and why do they cause so much controversy?

After all, they are basically just a bunch of people riding bikes on the road. I see groups of cyclists riding all the time. In fact, in CA there were groups of 50 to 100 riders I'd see regularly. The Cape Fear Cyclists has a monthly schedule of group rides as well that anyone can join.

Yet when someone mentions critical mass it seems to polarize people, cyclists included.

People view it as political, and thus it would mean having to take a stand or pick a side. Most people are unwilling to do this, politicians especially.

But then someone posted this link today and I was like, "Duh, am I forgetting that most people are ignorant too?"

The reason I ride in a group is, well number one, safety. It is much safer to ride in a group than to ride solo. In fact, it is damn near suicide to ride on some of these streets around here. Doing it in a group is much safer.

But number two it is to let people know that cyclists are allowed on the roads and have the same rights and privileges as people who drive cars. There's still way too many motorists out there that think we don't belong on the roads. I mean, that's a pretty fundamental thing. If we can't get past that, we'll never get any respect.

Also fundamental is the retarded reasons motorists give for not wanting cyclists on the road:
(1) "You don't pay gas taxes so you don't belong on the road"
I'm so sick of hearing this that the next person that says this should be strangled with a 9-speed chain or beaten with cranksets dipped in flesh-eating bacteria. We all pay taxes regardless of our travel choices. I drive too. The roads in NC are maintained by the state and anyone with a job in NC pays state taxes. Do you know anyone that doesn't pay taxes? I pay a lot of NC taxes so these folks can shut the f--- up already. I don't want to hear it anymore. In fact, it really is the other way around. Cyclists subsidize motorists. People who drive less than average tend to overpay their roadway costs, while those who drive more than average tend to underpay. End of story.

(2) "You should avoid busy roads because they are too dangerous. You will get hit."
This is the crux of the problem with the car based hegemony. The reason it is this way is because cyclists were not even thought of when these roads were planned. Bikes were/still are considered an impractical form of transportation, a plaything, something people should ride on the sidewalks. In Wilmington, specifically, no other less congested routes are available, so the cyclist is marginalized to riding around on neighborhood streets and cul de sacs.

How did it get this way? Two words: cheap oil. At the time, the US was the number one oil exporter in the world. Cheap oil led to the rise of the far-flung suburbs, shopping malls, expressways, feeder/collector roads, parking lots, etc. Cheap oil gave us zoning laws that separated residential development from commercial development, outlaid rules for impervious cover, parking space requirements, road improvements, drainage, lighting, and on and on. What was missing here? Pedestrian and bike accomodations. They weren't considered because cheap gas made it possible to build way out in the boondocks, far from the city center, where you could buy pristine land on the cheap, tear it up and build it out as cheaply as possible. You surely couldn't walk or bike all the way out there, so why do it?

This mode of development still exists today. I see it every day in New Hanover County as they develop the area where I live. I live 1.6 miles from the grocery store and other shops yet there is no safe way to get there by walking or by bike. There are no bike racks.

People are now so adapted to this infrastructure, so infused is it in their minds that they cannot think of anything beyond driving around in a car. It is so bad that every time I hear or read a discussion about energy or oil it always comes down to how are we going to continue to run all the cars. Venture capitalists are throwing hundreds of millions of dollars at "solutions" while blithely unaware that cheap oil and the personal automobile is what got us into this situation in the first place.

The idiots running this county are mired in bureaucracy and stuck with a 1950's mentality. They need to be leading us into the future yet they are still acting like things will continue as before. Business As Usual.

If we had been smart we would have significant nuclear power and been driving around electric cars for the last 20 years. Instead we've burnt through half the petroleum that took millions of years to form in a mere 100 years and thrown all the stored carbon back into the atmosphere. Now it is rather late. It will take 20 to 30 years to shift to electric and we're out of time. Game over. The US, and the planet, loses.

So back to critical mass. You can't fight the car hegemony. You will lose. It is too ingrained in people. It's like trying to unplug people from the Matrix. They can't live without the system. It doesn't matter anyway. Cyclists have won. Peak oil is going to take care of our cancerous car-only transportation infrastructure. Gas at $3.25 is not going to do it but wait a few years. Gas is still too cheap. You can argue with me, but when I drive on the highway and go 80mph and am being passed like I'm sitting still by people driving huge SUVs, gas is still way too cheap. But it is slowly starting to happen. I saw rows of used SUVs for sale today on Market St.

So all you can do on these rides is to relax and have fun. Maybe drivers will get jealous and wish they could join you. Obey the traffic laws. Don't get into it with motorists. 20% of them are a-holes and aren't going to change. You're just out riding your bike. Nobody ever gives the huge flocks of motorcycles that often descend on Wilmington on the weekend grief. So why do cyclists get so much? The mere mention of a cyclist on the road evokes passionate rage from some people.

The police have better things to do than be called to watch a group of cyclists ride on the road. It takes their attention away from important safety matters such as mis-behaving motorists breaking the laws (which happens every day, yet you never hear other drivers say anything about this, or the deaths and pollution their cars create).

Try to avoid single lane roads and if you have to be on one, ride single file and stay to the side so that motorists can pass, but only if it's safe. That way, hopefully, they may thank you for it and you will gain a little respect. You may not agree with me, but that's how I would compromise.

You have a right to ride your bike on the road. That's the bottom line. We may not change anything, but at least we'll plant the seed. And that may end up doing more for cycling than 30 years of the Cape Fear Cyclists.


And finally I leave you with this:

Filed Under: General Entries > North Carolina > Wilmington


1. Jay said...

very well put SBA!

Apr 9, 2008 @ 4:08 AM

2. Reno said...

there needs to be a link to this on the star news forum.

actually, this needs to be IN the star news.

Good job.

Apr 9, 2008 @ 6:37 AM

3. dumbbum said...

wasn't that you guys that showed up towing that land yatch 40 ' stretch camper towing with a v8 @ 5 miles to the gallon guzzler at the Pizgah Gatherin ? save the planet bro, buy a tent! stop the hypocrisy!

(i'm fuggin\' w/ya of course)

Apr 9, 2008 @ 1:44 PM

4. sirtoots said...

correction that was 7.8mls

Apr 9, 2008 @ 6:37 PM

5. steve said...

my opinion on these rides is that it is going to do more harm then good
This town is not ready to except this type of bike awareness
we need to stay on the course which is what we've done at BlueClay and also what the CapeFearCyclist
is doing
We've brought back organized racing
events -off road and on,
and if your not aware
we do now belong to USACYCLING and we are also looking into joining SORBA - all positve

Apr 9, 2008 @ 7:03 PM

6. concerned cyclists said...

Yes we have the right to the road
But Follow the rules of the road don't ruin it for all of us who get little time to finally enjoy a day out riding on the road.

Apr 9, 2008 @ 7:05 PM

7. Brinker said...

Great stuff Erol, I agree that we need to link this to the Star News.

I regularly commute around New Hanover County. The vast majority of drivers are very courteous; I even give those that wait to pass a friendly wave of appreciation (hey, thanks for not running me off the road!). Unfortunately it only takes one that has an attitude similar to those that posted on the Star News forum to ruin the ride, the day, or even worse. Maybe a bright orange shirt with "I pay lots of taxes too, please don't run me over!"?

Apr 9, 2008 @ 7:20 PM

8. Sir Bikes said...

As I mentioned, I have no tolerance for flaunting traffic laws, or messing with motorists. That won't do us any good. I'm out to have fun and make people aware that cyclists are allowed to ride on the road and it's not a big deal. Hopefully more folks will join, and then we'll have enough people that we can demand more bike lanes and facilities from our local and state leadership. Although I think even if we did nothing they're going to get the message once gas hits $5 per gallon and they realize the days of cheap gas are long over. Time to wake up from your hydrocarbon dreamworld!

Apr 9, 2008 @ 7:32 PM

9. MLB said...

I've been reading all of the comments and certainly read the link to the Star News discussion.(disturbing but not too surprising).I think it's important that whatever the reason for a group ride, it needs to be displayed as a positive "hey lets make Wilm. more bike friendly", instead of "here we are in your face, screw off if you don't like it".I've had some idiots run me off the road but I've also ridden with those who enjoy provoking drivers.I like the direction CFC and SBA are headed in with the organized events and increasing awareness.I've raced at Blue Clay (not because I'm very fast,I'm not...yet!)and rode in the Hot 100 to have fun and help the cause.I would like to commute to work once I convince myself that I can make it there and back alive.(Market St. sucks in daylight nevermind at night)I'd like to ride that Friday ,just not sure if we are all riding for the same reasons.

Apr 9, 2008 @ 9:42 PM

10. Randy said...

Well I do commute on market st every day, and I can tell you that these events are positive and for a good cause. I would love to see you out there, and you have no idea how nice it is to ride in such a large group around Wilmington. Hop you "convince" yourself its okay. I hope you don't live by your "doing things for the same reason" motto.

Apr 10, 2008 @ 5:35 AM

11. MLB said...

I've convinced myself!I have a good route planned out....and the other statement is not a motto.I just want to make sure we do more good than harm 'cause I plan to ride the streets much more than last year.

Apr 10, 2008 @ 5:25 PM

12. randy said...

Good point. Again I hope to see you out there. I will be on a mustard yellow salsa. And there is no getting around the fact that Market st. is tough to ride. But there are ways. If you want to post your route on the site, we can offer some suggestions for safer commuting.

Apr 10, 2008 @ 7:22 PM

13. Steelman said...

I've recently tried to limit myself to $20 worth of gas per week. I do ride about an extra mile to stay on a safe path during my 11.7 mile commute.

This town needs more bike lanes. I live on Middle Sound Loop. We now have a lane around part of it, and the Military cutoff multiuse path is also nice. There is also a bike lane cutting through Mayfaire, and again Racine Drive. So, it seems like the critical mass rides have done something, and I hope to become more involved as my passion for two wheels and two pedals has be rekindled.

Now, the thing that really cracks me up is that people think 11.7 miles is a lot! If you're a biker, you're laughing at them with me! The masses a meek, and they have inherited the earth!

Apr 11, 2008 @ 5:35 AM

14. Justin said...

Good post. I've had the peak oil "debate" with many people around New Bern (though I'm sure it's the same everywhere) and they refuse to believe it. "Propoganda," they call it. Then they'll cite something the big guy from the Weather Channel said, about how global warming is a hoax, etc. It's not that the Star News wouldnt want something like this, but most likely that it'd detract from its readership. I'd put a link to this in my column (the Hell with the red necks who'd get turned off by it) so people around New Bern could get the gist. Only problem is the profanity and reference to the people running this country as idiots. But if you take those out, it detracts so much from your post.

Apr 11, 2008 @ 6:44 AM

15. eric said...

Speaking of bike paths, I noticed that the people building Autumn Hall (that's a whole other issue with me) is putting a multi-use path nearly the entire length of Eastwood Rd. Don't get me wrong, I think it's a good thing, but I feel that we need bike lanes in Wilmington instead of paths. A path only instills the idea that bicycles don't belong on the roads and that we should be pushed of to the side.

If anyone has a route they’d like to share for the next ride, please let us all know. A good way to map it out and pass it on to people is by using this site:
You can add points, draws lines automatically and calculates distances.

Apr 11, 2008 @ 6:52 AM

16. Annie said...

This is Grannie Annie...I think that comment about bike lanes vs. multi use paths is significant. Multi use paths mean you stop at every cross street and work your way around baby carriages and people walking with and without their dogs and bless you if someone comes out of a driveway fast (you know how people back up and look later). Its really not that much fun.
I have trouble driving a reasonable speed on N. College in my car without someone trying to pass me between stop lights. I would certainly be afraid to try it on a bike. I get all teary eyed when I see one of you hot young guys out there north of Gordon braving the traffic! Makes me wish I was young again, I'd jump on my bike and chase right after you.

Apr 11, 2008 @ 2:32 PM

17. MLB said...

Steelman, I live on Middle Sound Loop too along with others who bike often so perhaps you can help us with our plan. We are trying to get a lane that runs from Ogden Elementary through Gorman Plantation and Covil Estates. That would make it safer for people to commute from our area to work,grocery store,beach etc. It would connect an already existing decent route.The traffic volume is not as much of a problem as the roads being so narrow that people are right on top of you.Erol offered his assistance with this too and I'm sure there are others that can help also.The more lanes,the more riders,the more awareness I feel.

Apr 11, 2008 @ 2:48 PM

18. Mo Vaughn said...

Critical mass rides do nothing except aggravate the police and city officials. Its dangerous to both cyclist and motorist and isn't worth it.

Apr 12, 2008 @ 11:45 AM

19. Reno said...

They do a lot more than that. They place the cyclist in the media and therefore in the public eye. Cyclist's can no longer afford to "go gently into that good night".

I understand that cyclists must follow all established rules of the road but motorists have such a huge and lethal advantage over the cyclist on the road that many of them need to be shocked into the realization that no, they don't own the road by themselves.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with cyclists gathering to promote cycling rights on the road. No apologies are needed.

Apr 12, 2008 @ 9:20 PM

20. Ben said...

!!! We NEED a bike lane on middle sound loop road!!! I commute 5 miles one way. It's a great route except for the small section between Covil and Odgen School!!!

There are over 5000 people in the odgen area as of the year 2000 and only more are going to be arriving with a new development that is going to have 200+ homesites. There are as many as 103 million bikes in this country which relates to almost a 1 to 3 bikes to people ratio. Which means that with the five plus thousand people who live in the Odgen area, there are an estimated 1600 bikes. Granted, lots of thoes aren't rideable for a daily commute. But it at least gives us numbers.

Something else to think about. I have heard rumors that, as soon as the Odgen school lets out for summer, there are plans to put a roundabout in at that intersection! For thoes who are looking into this already, it might be somting to think about!

I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one with this dilema =)

Apr 13, 2008 @ 6:27 PM

21. formerlyjohnthewrench said...

Let's murder all dem auto driven bastaches and make dis a bisickle utopia!

Apr 14, 2008 @ 6:43 PM

22. sirtoots said...

what formely still how,s the weather?
I can see you still have away with words

Apr 14, 2008 @ 8:35 PM

23. formerlyJTW said...

And you are still a horrible typist Steve! Weather sucks, but it can only get better.

Apr 15, 2008 @ 5:57 PM

24. tim said...

do things as you have always done, and get the same resluts you have always gotten. plain and simple. if we do not make ourselves aware, noticed, and loudly, we wil get nowhere. how many people read the paper anymore?? how many even listen to the radio anymore?? people are completely ignorant of the rules of the road and cyclist, until people are educated of them!! i cannot tell you how many times a day i see the guy who has obviously lost his drivers license and is riding a bike up the wrong side of the road! and that one guy makes it for all of us!! one bad apple ruins the whole bushel!!

gas prices have absolutely nothing to do with drivng a car, for a long while!! as long as there is gas people will drive thier cars. driving a car is not a commodity, its a neccesity in todays society. people will cut off cable tv, toss out the paper bill, and even kill the cell phone and or internet! if work pays X dollars and it cost X dollars to get there and home, then guess what... they still need to get there to make X dollars!! come one now!! quit with the whole huge gas price scare tactic!!

its about learning the ignorant and teaching the young before they are ignorant. not about scaring people into riding bikes. if someone wants to ride they will, if not they won't. enough with scare tactics!!!

johnthewrench is still a jackass!!

Apr 16, 2008 @ 7:57 PM

25. Sir Bikes said...

Except that when you cut back on the other stuff then the people that produce that other stuff lose their jobs and you have a recession. So where are they going to drive to?

The economy cannot grow without cheap energy. It's a one-to-one relationship. The age of cheap energy from fossil fuels is over. We wasted our one-time endowment.

Fantasy time is over. Reality is now setting in.

Apr 17, 2008 @ 5:40 AM

26. tim said...

i strongly agree that fossil fuels have been used and consumed for far too long. but have we tried too long to find a resolution to the problem??

i feel that we have. a recent study has shown that ethenol (corn based fuel) takes entirely too much energy to make than its worth!!! unfortunate!! but, until this hew resource that we don't know about yet is found, cheap fossil fuels are all we have!! but to think that it's time that everyone have to ride a bicycle... well it has not gone that far yet. and there will be quite a while before it gets that far. at least another decade.

and i am not thinking we are ok and let the problem exist for our future. but thats just what it is as of todays present time. ultimately there is a resource that can and will be used. but only time and technology will tell us what it is. no matter how much political influence there is. after all, the entire situation in the middle east is about oil!

Apr 20, 2008 @ 9:55 PM

27. tim said...

and i wonder why jackass the wrench has nothing to to add to this conversatin???

Apr 20, 2008 @ 9:57 PM

28. Randy said...

Because he doesn't live here anymore, and has better things to do than play on the computer ? Just a guess though.

Apr 27, 2008 @ 7:43 AM


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